A theoretical suggestion to interdisciplinary explanation of hunger strike: re-thinking the identity fusion theory


Hitit Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi (Online), vol.16, no.1, pp.240-254, 2023 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier


There has been a controversy on whether hunger strikes and self-immolations in prisons are rationally adopted reactions or consequences of mental disorders that prisoners commonly develop. Neurobiological and evolutionary researches and experiments on self-sacrifice may explain sacrificial behavior to some extent, as they lack ideational and political perspectives. The reasons for sacrificial behavior have been interpreted (correctly, yet not thoroughly) by medical practitioners for prevention. Such self-sacrificing behavior must not be confused with suicidal behavior, which is also prevailing in prisons. Self-sacrifice in prison may imply a method of political participation, and not a result of a prisoner's mental illness related to serotonergic dysregulation or any other psychopathology, but a reasonable response to difficult situations and injustices. Group identification, ideology, historical affirmation, and martyr mythology are the reasons for adopting / disregarding self-sacrifice and determining the severity of self-sacrificing behavior. This paper attempts to address this dilemma, suggesting there is an inextricable relation between social psychology, ideology and historical heritage in explaining self-sacrificial behavior. To this end, the theories of normative and rational uses of violence to self-sacrifice will be adapted and hybrid motive behind hunger strikes will be sought. Then, the connection of Identity Fusion Theory, which sheds light on extreme pro-group behaviors, and self-sacrifice behavior will be discussed.